After the furor surrounding the politics in football, when FIFA decided on Russia to host the 2018 World Cup, football returns to the pitch and to its purest form. On the first week of a busy December in the Premiership, Everton will travel to West London, to Stamford Bridge to take on the champions - Chelsea.
Everton did not have a great November, failing to win a single match out of the five they played. They drew three and lost two, with second of the two loses coming against West Brom at the Goodison Park, where they were crushed 4-1. The blue half of Merseyside saw their team pummel down in the second half, after Mikel Arteta's sending off gave them no chance to grab anything from the game.
Their miserable run has seen them win just one game in seven, since their impressive 2-0 victory over Liverpool in mid-October. They have been very poor on the road and this has seen them sit just two places above the relegation zone. Everton's main problem this season has been their inability to convert draws into wins. The poor return from their forwards is the main reason for this as they continue to rely on goals from midfielders Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill to get them out of sticky situations.
December is an important month for the Evertonians as they will face Wigan, Manchester City, Birmingham and West Ham. But they will be hopeful of getting something off this game, as Chelsea have been going through a bad patch as well.
Chelsea were leading the table with a comfortable four point lead at the start of November. However, a span of four weeks, in which they have been poor at best, has seen them drop a place to second in the league, two points behind arch-rivals Manchester United after their 1-1 draw at Newcastle last week. December is potentially the toughest month of their season with matches against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Bolton coming up in the weeks to follow and they'll look to start off the month with a win against Everton, and take on the momentum to Tottenham in a week's time.
They haven't been helped by injuries and suspensions. The poor results have coincided with skipper John Terry's injury, which has seen him sit out for three weeks while Vice-captain and influential midfielder, Frank Lampard, continues his recovery from a groin problem. Essien's three games suspension meant he hasn't played since scoring against Fulham at the end of October. However, two of those three, Terry and Essien, will comeback against Everton and this should inspire the squad's other seniors such as Anelka and Drogba back into form.
Everton last and only Premier League win at Stamford Bridge was in November 1994 when Paul Rideout's goal gave them a 1-0 win.
Chelsea have drawn their last four games against Everton at Stamford Bridge but are unbeaten in their last 15 league home games against them.
Everton are without the suspended Mikel Arteta, but forward Marouane Fellaini is back from a ban. Captain Phil Neville and Jagielka might feature if they recover sufficiently from their injuries. But Barkley, Hibbert and Osman are all out injured.
Chelsea will welcome back skipper John Terry after his recovery from a nerve injury in his leg, while Michael Essien is also available after completing a three-match ban. But Alex, Benayoun and Frank Lampard are all sidelined with injury.
Table Position -
Everton currently lie 16th on the table with sixteen points. However, such is the openness of this Premier League season that not much separates the top from the bottom half and a win could see them rise up to 9th. A loss however, coupled with wins for Fulham and Wigan, can send them down into the relegation zone.
Chelsea currently lie second on the table with 29 points, two behind leaders Manchester United. Chelsea can take the lead if they win while United lose to Blackpool. However, if they lose, and Arsenal win, they will drop down one place to third in the league.
The last four fixtures between these two at Stamford Bridge have been draws. That looks likely to change this time around, with both teams in desperate need for points. Mikel Arteta's loss is a blow for Everton, while Chlelsea will welcome back influential figures in the form of Terry and Essien. It will be tightly contested, but it looks probable that Chelsea will get back to winning ways with a 2-1 win.